ASIC: What's the meaning of what?

ASIC: What's the meaning of what?

Greg Medcraft doesn't normally look much like a continental philosopher, but the Australian Securities and Investments Commission boss may need to break out the black turtleneck sweater and the horn-rimmed glasses as part of the corporate watchdog's latest undertaking.

ASIC is surveying both those it regulates and "other stakeholders" about what they think of the job it does.

Normally this might seem a pointless exercise - the regulated are going to say ASIC stinks because it is always interfering, while punters who've lost the lot to corporate con-artists are going to say ASIC stinks because it doesn't interfere enough. Luckily, ASIC has hired a market research mob that on its website promises to apply the exciting academic discipline of semiotics to the job.

Semiotics, pioneered by croissant-benders including Roland Barthes and Ferdinand de Saussure, is the study of signs and signification. It is normally about as far removed from the hustle and bustle of the market as a field of study can get. But ASIC's pet research house, Susan Bell Research, promises it uses "commercial semiotics" to bridge the gap. This despite an admission on its website that "some of the academic writing on semiotics has also been very abstruse".

On the other hand, "abstruse" could also sum up the Corporations Law that ASIC administers, which now runs to more than 2000 pages, so perhaps the two disciplines aren't so far apart after all.

Paper chase

Here's what happens when PIGS clean up. Ted Dow has stepped down from the committee of the PXUPA Investor Group Supporters, or PIGS, which has campaigned long and hard on behalf of hybrid noteholders in troubled paper company PaperlinX, because he has been appointed chief investment officer of the federal government's $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation. Dow is replaced by Justin Epstein, the founder of funds management business One Investment Group.

Try this on

The Australian government has been hit by a $10 million lawsuit that's guaranteed to give Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus a headache - if he tries to read it.

Australia is one of 51 countries - including Moldova, twice, and Hong Kong, which is not actually a country - named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed in a US court late last month in which "the plaintiff demands $10 million from each and every defendant" on the basis of "discrimination against national origin because plaintiff 100% is JEW". (Capitals as per original.)

That's the most comprehensible part of the five-page lawsuit, which is largely gibberish. "Plaintiff red the coded information and said: 'Princess Diana going to die because fake Queen Elizabeth did order to kill her'," reads one of the more cogent paragraphs.

Readers may be unsurprised to learn the address given by the plaintiff seems to be a mental institution on Staten Island.

Speak, Chris

The phone has yet to ring with a call back from the Institute of Public Affairs' freedom of speech defender, Chris "de" Berg.

Last Tuesday CBD called Berg to ask if the legal attack on Fairfax Media hack Adele Ferguson by Australia's richest person, Gina Rinehart, could chill speech. Berg has yet to return CBD's calls. Clearly he was too busy tweeting up a storm (Chris, CBD has never seen you shine so bright - you were amazing) and blasting the "fundamental threat to freedom of the press" posed by man in red (underpants) Stephen Conroy.

The lack of a return call has nothing to do with Rinehart launching her book at the IPA late last year, or the fact that Berg's tome, In Defence of Freedom of Speech: From Ancient Greece to Andrew Bolt, was co-published by the Mannkal Foundation run by Rinehart's friend, Ron Manners.

PS: Bolt himself blogged that he likes Rinehart but her action was "not a good look".

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